Growth Mindset Read Aloud #MindsetMondayLRSD

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Starting May 7th, we challenge you and your students to partake in our #MindsetMondayLRSD Growth Mindset Read Aloud! Each week, for four weeks, a new book that will deepen your learning and engage your students in powerful and meaningful conversations will be featured by a hosting class. You will also be able to connect and share your learning with other classrooms globally through slow Twitter chats, and more if you choose. So why join?

Importance of Growth Mindset

Stumbling, falling, and knowing how to get back up is an important step in our learning process. We all need to build resiliency and develop the skills to persevere when we hit road blocks. #MindsetMondayLRSD will allow you and your students to explore different children’s literature focusing on Growth Mindset while reflecting on who we are, where we are, where we’re going, and our uniqueness on that journey.

What you can expect

Each week, you and your students will be invited to watch a prerecorded video of a Growth Mindset book being read by the hosting class. Throughout the book, the hosting students will invite you to answer questions based on the book and your experiences. You can share your learning using the Q1 A1 format on Twitter. Don’t forget to include the #MindsetMondayLRSD hashtag in your answers. If a certain book inspires you further, feel free to share your extended activities through art, poetry, blogs, #BookSnaps, video reflections, etc. to the hashtag. Please note that you can view the video and participate in the slow Twitter chat as it fits into your schedule that week! Watch for new blog posts coming out every Sunday that will include all of the info you need for the week, including what class is hosting, what book they will be reading, the video link, and the Slow Twitter Chat questions.

We look forward to connecting with you and your students to see where this Growth Mindset adventure will take us!

Nycol & Annick

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Ode To Things That Bring Us Joy

It’s so important that at any age, each and everyone of us have interests and hobbies that spark joy in our lives. One of my go-to’s has always been music. Singing in the shower or in places where the acoustics make you sound amazing even though you’re subpar. Playing the flute in the high school band or the sax in jazz. Belting out my favourite hits on the radio. Music has always been such an immense part of my life.

My love for music comes from my family, mostly my mom’s side although my dad is a phenomenal drummer too. Growing up, there was always music on, especially when we were washing dishes by hand. Back in the early days, records, then later, cassettes and CDs. Neil Young, Eric Clapton, America, Jann Arden, James Taylor you name it, we played it!

The Mireault’s (my mom’s side) have always been such a close knit family and whenever we got together for a special occasion or weekend pool parties on the farm, guitars were sure to make an appearance around the fire late at night and three part harmonies followed suit. It’s a running joke in town- “You’re a Mireault-music is in your blood” they say. Whenever there’s someone added to our family, they can’t believe our rendition of Happy Birthday! It’s one for the books! In fact, we even have our own songs book! It’s coil bound and 288 pages long! That’s my Mémère and Pépère on the cover!

Needless to say, growing up in a small town, my mom and her siblings all learned how to play guitar, mostly by ear. When someone’s fingers are on fire, there’s usually someone who can take over. I’ve always wanted to learn this instrument-it’s been on my bucket list since I can remember. I love how you can bring a guitar anywhere. It can instantly change the mood of a party and I love how you can sing while playing at the same time. Try doing that with a sax or a flute!

My parents always wanted to teach my brother and I to play so when we were in our late teens, they each bought us a Yamaha guitar for Christmas. We had all the intentions in the world to learn from them during our Thursday night dinners at their place, but those guitars never came out. Instead, we’d play a board game or talk until the wee hours of the morning.

My desire to learn how to play the guitar increased when I had my kids. I wanted to play them lullabies and kids’ songs for them to sing along to- but I never took the time to take lessons. There was always a reason not to: no time, too expensive, assignments to hand in for my M. Ed., mom guilt, and the list goes on.

Since I’ve decided in the past few months to do more of what brings me joy, I’m so excited to share that I’ve taken my first guitar lesson tonight! Do you know who gave me the push to make it happen? Three grade 7 and 8 girls who were practicing their guitar in our school’s main learning commons!

It’s so much harder than it looks and it’s really stretching my brain, but I’m so incredibly proud of myself. It’s nothing like playing the flute or the sax or the piano! So tonight I dusted the same guitar that was gifted to me over a decade ago and learned six notes! Check it out! (You can laugh at me, cause I’m laughing with you!).

I feel like I should have done this years ago, but it’s never too late. It’s kind of hilarious because all of the students in the time slots before me are on average 8 years old. But I don’t care. I believe you are never too old to learn something new, especially something you’ve dreamed about, that speaks to you, that sparks joy. It’s not foolish to try something new, it’s foolish to never try at all. So I keep trying…

Allow me to change the tone a bit. As a teacher, it was really interesting for me to be in the passenger seat and learning at my own pace. I was instantly immersed in the environment that my students live day in and day out. I felt so many emotions. Ok, it was my first lessons, but even with a music background and already knowing how to read music, I struggled, but I didn’t and won’t give up. I immediately empathized with students when they are learning new concepts and skills in my class. Some have previous knowledge but all learn at their own rhythm. They need to be praised and encouraged through the learning process and need time to practice, practice and practice. Practice makes permanent.

As I was looking our Mireault songbook, I came across a tune from Doris Day- Enjoy yourself. I feel it applies well to the message in my post.

So do it. Find time for things that make you happy. Put time aside for yourself and start crossing those items off your bucket list. You’re never too old to learn something new or try the things you’ve always dreamed of. Life’s too short! You won’t regret it! Ode to things that make you happy! Ode to joy!

My first ever song played on my guitar after my first ever lesson (learning notes B, C , D, E, F, G) and about twenty minutes of practice! You gotta start somewhere! Note my husband wasn’t there to film me (who can blame him) 🙂

On Your Bookmarks, Get Set, Grow!

I love to read. I love books. Picture books, non fiction books, education books you name it. You’d probably be surprised to know that I haven’t always loved to read. I remember my first day of school in Grade 2. I was wearing my new purple suede lace-up shoes (you know the kind where the laces are so thin and slick that they untie easily and slip through the grommets). I wore my denim blouse that had pink and purple flowers embroidered along the collar. It had brown and beige buttons along the front. This shirt went well with my matching blue denim jeans that had the same embroidery on the pockets. My long hair was tied in a low ponytail, and my mom had just trimmed my bangs for back to school. As usual, they were somewhat crooked.

I remember it clearly. I was sitting at a round table (not too bad for that era) with a few people I knew from grade 1. My teacher had us reading aloud one by one. Already an assessment to see what we remembered from the previous year, I suppose. I was dreading my turn. I hear my name called, instantly feel the intense heat of that spotlight and start to sweat. My hands were so clammy I bet you could see my thumbprints from where I was holding the page (you know the paper that was thin but somewhat textured).

The sentence: “La maison est jaune.” (The house is yellow). Words I knew but didn’t remember. I speak softly, trying to decode maison. Mmmaaaaa-iiiiiii-zzzz-âne. Wrong. My teacher said, “Voyons Nycol, c’est un mot que tu connais! (Nycol, you should know this!!)”. Making me feel stupid. I did feel silly when I remembered that “on” made the sound “on like ourson”. I hated reading a loud in front of other people. That followed me well into high school.

School didn’t always come easy to me before I learned how to play the game. After I figured that out, I was a straight A student. Honour roll each term, bursaries through university.

As I was studying to become a teacher, my love for books grew. When I first stepped into our new school’s library learning commons, I was in awe. All new books waiting to be cracked open. Hoping to share their story. Aching to be chosen to be brought home, held and hugged.

There are so many books in our learning commons! All sorts of books. I like to check out what my students are taking out to see what interests them. One student chose a book of mazes. Not an information book, but literally a book with mazes, so many cool ones, waiting to be solved! It’s called Labyrinthes by Théo Guignard.

What I loved about this book was how it drew students in. One student was looking at one maze then all of a sudden they were a group of four on the floor. What I loved about this book is that students tried and tried again to get through these mazes. When they hit a wall or an obstacle, they moved backwards and retraced their steps to find another way, a solution to reach the final destination.

My students loved this book so much that when I saw it in the library I took it out for myself! I brought it home to see how my kids would tackle it. They are younger than the students I teach and I was wondering if they would give up before finding the way out. Not a chance. My four and six year old tackled these mazes until I had to say lights out and promise them they could continue tomorrow!

Seeing my students and own kids persevering through this book instantly made me think of what I wanted for them as learners. I want them to persevere through challenging activities. When they hit a wall or get stuck, I want them to try and find a solution and not wait to be rescued by a “helicopter”. I want them to know that failing is an important step in their learning process and is a way they’ll develop resiliency.

I want them to tackle their writing assignments with the same enthusiasm as they do when they get stuck in the maze. I want them to use the different strategies they’ve learned when they decode unfamiliar words. I want them to think critically and try again and again.

Seeing them this interested and engaged reminded me of a great little book I recently finished, Code Breaker by Brian Aspinall.

(Hello World :))

This easy read highlights practical examples on how to integrate computational thinking and coding across the curriculum in every classroom. Skills that are today effective in developing a growth mindset while taking risks, problem solving, tinkering and design, to demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways. Brian and countless other educators shine a light on how their students develop a mindset focused on finding solutions with the given feedback. Using coding and computational thinking has made their students engaged and empowered. Students are meeting continua outcomes without even knowing it!

In recent weeks, Annick Rauch, my colleague and best friend asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a growth mindset project. I didn’t even have to think twice before accepting. She is always full of worthwhile ideas. The beauty of it is that this year, we are both part of a Technology PLN with two other teachers in our district. This morning, we met to plan our growth mindset project while incorporating many other books from our school Learning Commons and use technology as a tool to share our learning and connect with other classrooms. Annick and I had great ideas and we can’t wait to tackle this project in April to Launch in May. Stay tuned for #MindsetMondaysLRSD. We can’t wait to stretch our students’ brains and have them take note of their personal growth.

Leading or Leaving?

We’ve all heard the stats before-next to half of all teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. Of course this statistic varies from province, state or country but regardless, the numbers are high. When I applied for my very first teaching job in 2009 fresh out of the Faculty,  I asked my future employers during my interview, “What’s your advice for new teachers as they embark on their career full of hope, energy and purpose? What advice do you have for me to make sure I don’t become part of this statistic?”. Their answer, “Find balance”, which is ironic because most scales in this profession are tipping (and I’m not talking about our salary scale, although that’s up for debate!). We are over achievers and set high standards. We care so deeply that we put the needs of the people we serve before our own and our own families. We sacrifice so much of ourselves for others. Educators are a special kind of creature.

I was hired last year to be part of the amazing staff that opened École Sage Creek School in the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Canada. An experience not every educator has the opportunity to take part in. This group of determined and driven innovative educators were hired because they are forward thinking and prove it. At École Sage Creek School, big ideas are brought to fruition and the students own the stage. The students’ storyline is spectacular as they lead front and center. They put on a great show, but no one sees or even understands what’s really happening behind the scenes.

The time. The mornings, the lunch hours, the “prep” times, the evenings. The weekends. The emails. The decisions. The brainstorming. The research. The meetings before, the meetings during, the meetings after school hours. The meetings to make meetings. The cars parked in front of the school on weekends. The stress. The skipped lunches. The EA’s running marathons. The planning. The connecting. The networking. The worrying. The communicating. The back and forth. The non stop hustle and bustle. It never ends. We tell ourselves it will be better after report cards, of after the winter concert or after the month of February (oh the month of February! – Valentine’s, I love to read month, Olympics, Festival du Voyageur, Hundredth day of School, Report cards anyone and may I mention all in 19 teaching days!!), but it’s just a line we use to trick our brains that things will get easier. Truth is, it does not. I believe we are numb and get used to the constant demands from students, parents, colleagues, school initiatives, divisional priorities and policies because that’s what we do. It’s what we have to do. To be an educator who has a meaningful impact on the lives of the of learners they teach, it does not get easier. Each calculated decision has a meaning, a value, a purpose. Some years are harder. Some years seem shorter. Some years are smarter. But the job is not getting easier. We’re fools to believe it does. Maybe it’s just me and my personality because I can’t accept mediocrity and I continuously want to better myself. I work hard. Others may say, work smarter, not harder…. I just secretly chuckle to myself as I politely nod and smile. They have no idea.

I’ve worked in two other schools and this one is completely different. The stakes are high, the pressure is on and we are all feeling it.

So how do we find balance as teachers/leaders?

It’s next to impossible for me. I realized I can’t be a great wife, mom and teacher all at the same time. Last month, I decided (not by choice, but for the sake of my mental and physical health) that I would put my Master’s on hold. I am so incredibly close to completing it- in the final stages – and I temporarily (key word) gave up my personal goal to better balance my home life and work life. This is never seen before footage from me, just ask my husband.  Never have I ever not met a goal I set for myself. Never have I ever not been able to juggle all parts of my life, until this year. SO when I actually dropped it, my husband knew it was serious. I have even considered becoming a full time substitute teacher to be more present for my own family. To raise my own kids. Yes it’s a significant salary drop, but not really, when you break down my teacher salary into an hourly wage and consider the evenings, weekends, and weeks of summer spent planning, prepping, creating and reflecting. I’d be the awesome wife I once was, a way better mom who witnessed those milestones and a teacher in different ways. It does seem pretty inviting. After discussing it with someone who I admire more than words can express and who has shaped me into the teacher I am today, he said “Nycol, I support you in whatever decision you make, but you wouldn’t have the same impact you have if you left the classroom”. And, he’s right. This man is always right. He reminded me of my purpose. It’s sometimes hard to remember your purpose when you have all of these extras and to do lists you need to attend to. We need to remember to open our eyes and see what’s in front of us day in and day out- our very students. They are our purpose. The struggle is, that I have three of my own along with the 22 others I play a part in raising.

In order to make it as a teacher, collaboration is key. We can’t work in isolation. George Couros says it himself, “Isolation is now a choice educators make.” Personally, I’d rather get in the canoe and paddle together up this “creek” because doing it alone is not an option. It’s actually impossible.

This morning, I came across these illustrations on social media by DestinyBlue. I feel they capture my feelings perfectly, when I think of how fortunate I am to work alongside a team of people who consistently strive for success and offer help when they too are in need of help. The staff at École Sage Creek School is a true team who “work smarter” in the good times and the hard times.

The picture above illustrates exactly how it feels when you have no choice but to do it alone. You feel trapped, stuck, powerless, worthless, inferior.

This second illustration by DestinyBlue portrays exactly what happens when you and your colleagues work as a team. They pick you up, give you wings, they offer help, and see your worth. They do not let you fall through the cracks. What I also love about this illustration is that it can also be compared to the relationship between a student and their teacher. The teacher reminds their students of their sense of purpose and their worth. Inspires them to take flight and discover what the world has to offer. It can also be viewed as the relationship between two friends, helping one another, because we all know students are teachers too.

Bottom line, it all comes down to relationships-having someone you can count on when you are feeling defeated, empty, alone, worthless, tired and uninspired. Having that someone who sees your strengths, who believes in you, who values you, who cares about you, who understands you and who will stand by you no matter what. We all need those relationships, adults, children, educators and students alike. So if you’ve lost your sense of purpose or feel as though your efforts aren’t worth it, know that you are not alone. But before you consider leaving the profession – really think of what you are leaving behind. You’re leaving your mark on those you serve everyday. You’re making a difference. What are you leaving?

2018: The Year of Self Love for Life – Advice From a Sweet Grandma

New year, new me. Or should I say new year, better me? I don’t feel I need to change anything in particular, because I’m quite accepting of who I am and constantly strive to become a better version of myself, but my personal goal is to love myself as the ones who surround me and care about me do. There is one person in particular who always made me feel confident, and that is my Grandma.

I’ve been thinking a lot during the past few days. The new year is a time to reflect on our goals, center ourselves and find truth, seek greatness and be grateful of the past. To start the year off right, my husband and I took a vacation to Florida this passed week to spend some quality time unplugged with our three kiddos and get away from the everyday stressors and struggle to find a happy work/life balance. It was not the time away we had planned considering we were looking for heat and found cold. Luckily we had our tuques tucked away in our luggage! I’m not even kidding. Don’t even get me started on the two and a half hour process to get into Disney, and let’s not forget the phone call that changed my trip. My grandma passed away on Day 3 of our travel plans. As I’m sitting here in an airport, by myself, leaving my husband and kids with dad of the year in Florida (I recognize it’s only January 5th but this guy earned it and will take the trophy home on December 31st), I think of her. Like I do regularly, daily.

She was wonder woman. A kind hearted, open minded, selfless ray of sunshine. She was the only grandparent I ever got to know and the one I could share my secrets with. She was accepting and found joy in other people’s happiness. I spent my summers with her on the farm, watching her bake bread, tending to her garden that could feed the entire community. She helped others at all times of the day. I remember calling her the night before a gala to alter a dress I purchased the same evening (I’m a last minute shopper, what can I say?!). Needless to say, it was ready at 6 am the next morning and fit like a glove. I could ask her to come help me paint my house when I was redecorating and there she was with her step ladder and paint clothes on (they didn’t have a speck of paint on them- cause she was that good).

When I spent time with my Mémère I would always seek her life lessons and words to live by. When I asked her what her secret to living a full life was (Mémère, c’est quoi le secret de la vie?) she said this : It’s loving and being loved (C’est d’aimer et être aimé). Being loved implies you need to love yourself first to accept the love of others. As I’ll think of her daily, she will forever remind me to love myself, accept love and love others. Even though my grandma only had the chance to get to grade 9 before she had to stop her education to help raise her younger siblings, she is by far my favourite teacher.

I always find it funny how life sends you signals and secret messages. The day we found out she was gone to a better place than when she exited this lifetime, we were on our way to Kennedy Space Center. What did I walk up to but this quote. I’m sure it’s a sign from her. It was her time.

My advice to myself and to others is to love yourself and tell the ones you love that you do. You can’t hear those words enough. Even those who don’t believe it themselves will start to.

Tu me manques, Mémère. Je t’aime jusqu’au ciel.